Bachelor’s in Game Design Degrees & Schools Guide

Bachelor's Degree in Video Game Design Career Options & Salary

Overview of a Bachelor’s in Game Design


If gaming is your first love and you'd love to make it your job, you may be thinking about a career as a game designer. Although it sounds like a fun and easy profession the fact is there's a lot of hard work involved, and you should plan on earning at least a bachelor's degree if you want to achieve success. This will not only introduce you to the basic knowledge you will need, but also give you a leg up on those who only have certifications or an associate. Once you start gaining experience in the field, and maybe a few certifications of your own, your resume will look great no matter what kind of position in the field you’re applying for.

Computer Science Degrees & Career Paths


PROS

  • A Bachelor degree will qualify you for a higher salary than someone without a degree. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) a bachelor’s degree holder earns up to $15,000 more per year than someone who has some college or an associate degree, regardless of the profession.
  • You'll have time to build a portfolio that showcases your abilities and talents, so prospective employers can see what you're capable of.
  • A bachelor’s degree program usually requires an internship, which gives you valuable experience in the field and may turn into full time employment after graduation.
  • College gives you valuable networking contacts and, in the gaming field, who you know is often nearly as important as what you know.
  • A bachelor's degree is marketable in most professions if you decide to change careers.
  • CONS

  • A bachelor’s degree takes around four years if you attend full-time, so you'll have to dedicate a good portion of your time to your education.
  • There aren't too many entry level positions in the field, and you may not find employment before earning your degree.
  • College is expensive and it may take a long time for you to see a return on your investment.
  • Game design is a highly competitive field and you may not be able to find a position as a designer immediately after graduation.
  • If you're not creative and good in STEM subjects, you may struggle to finish all the required courses.
  • The field of gaming is constantly evolving, so you'll need to continue your education in order to stay on top of the latest technology.
  • Certificate Vs. Bachelor’s


    There are certificate programs in gaming you can earn without a degree and, like a degree program, they have both pros and cons. On the good side, you'll get a solid exposure to the field and that may help you decide whether game design is the career for you. Some certificates are available at the high school level, so you won't have to pay for what you learn. On the other hand, a certificate won't help much with entering the field of game design, and the classes you take may not transfer to your college degree program. If you're considering a certificate program look for one that is accredited and accepted for college credit in a bachelor's program.

    What Game Design Bachelor’s Degrees are Available?


    Game design is a relatively new field and, as such, the degree program titles can be confusing. Some schools don't have programs specific to game design but offer it as a concentration in their graphic design program, while other schools may offer a similar concentration under the umbrella of computer applications. It's a good idea to look at all design and computer programs and look for concentrations and specializations as well as game design courses within the curriculum.

    For the most part, Art (BA) degrees will give you more leeway in the choice of electives while Science (BS) degrees will have a narrow choice of electives that are within the field of game design. Look at several programs that are game design specific and compare the curriculum to other design and computer programs that have a concentration or specialty in game design to see if the vaguer program titles offer the coursework you'll need to be proficient in game design. Here's a look at a few game design program titles:

    • Bachelor's in Video Game Design
    • Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design, Game Design Concentration
    • Bachelor of Science in Software Engineering, Game Design Specialization

    Admission Requirements


    Although each school decides on its own admission requirements, as a rule of thumb you will be expected to have a high school or associate degree grade point average (GPA) of at least 3.0 and submit your school transcripts with your completed application and application fee. Some schools will also require a minimum score on your SAT or ACT and a transcript of the score.

    If you already hold an associate degree, there may be prerequisite courses you'll need to have completed as an associate is the equivalent of the first two years of a Bachelor program. If your associate degree is in another subject, you may have to take some introductory game design courses to meet the school requirements for admission.

    Some schools require letters of recommendation, a letter of intent, and an essay as part of their admissions process. Basically, the more competitive the school the more stringent the admission requirements will be.

    How long does it take to earn a Video Game Design Bachelor’s?


    A bachelor degree is considered a four-year degree in that it takes approximately four years to complete if you follow the suggested curriculum schedule. You'll need a total of 120 credits to complete your degree, which is an average of 40 classes.

    If you already hold an associate degree, it will take approximately two years of full-time attendance to earn your bachelor's degree. If you take half the classes per semester, it will take twice as long.

    If you're still in high school, you may be able to take college courses and earn a semester or more of credits before you graduate. Most schools participate in the College Level Examination Program (CLEP) which allows you to test out of subjects you are knowledgeable in, giving you credits in place of actually taking a course such as English or algebra.

    Potential Careers in Game Design with a Bachelor’s Degree


    Because the game design industry is so competitive, you probably won’t be able to find a position as a game designer right out of college. You may qualify for a lower-level position within the field and then you’ll be able to showcase your ability as well as your portfolio to advance from within the industry.

    It's important to note that job titles can vary within the game design industry. A smaller game studio may post a job opening for a game designer when they actually want a programmer or graphic artist, while a larger company may post the same job title when they are looking for a level designer. Look at the details of a position before responding with an application.

    Here are a few positions that are typical, available entry-level jobs you can enter when you graduate from a bachelor’s degree program in game design:

    • Quality Assurance Game Tester
      As the title suggests, this job involves testing a game to make sure every level works the way it's supposed to. Testers keep a log of their actions, tracking bugs and errors so that the designers can fine tune the game before release. Average salary is $36,900
    • Level Designer/Editor
      This position typically designs the environments within a game such as the landscapes and buildings or the gameplay within a level. Depending on the size of the studio, you may be in charge of more or less. The average Level Designer Salary is $57,200.
    • Junior Game Developer
      A junior game developer may work on a specific aspect of a game or be charged with fine tuning a level or other details of a project. Depending on the size of the studio you may have many different tasks or be part of a team of junior developers who work under the direction of a lead developer. The average salary is $38,000.
    • Game Artist
      A game artist creates the art and storyboards that are incorporated into objects within a game. In a smaller studio this may be a freelance position; in larger studios you may be charged with a specific area such as weapon designs. The average salary is $50,200

    Options to Advance


    It will most likely take three to five years of experience working in the field before you can expect to advance to the role of game designer. Because of this you should consistently add to your portfolio and stay abreast of developments within the field of gaming. Plan to learn new techniques and platforms as soon as they are developed in order to stay on top of the latest in gaming trends.

    If your ultimate dream is to own your own studio you should continue your degree to the Master's level and add basic business knowledge to your resume.

    Best Bachelor’s of Science in Video Game Design Programs


    • Rochester Institute of Technology School of Interactive Games and Media
      Rochester, New York

      Rochester offers an excellent program that allows you to choose your area of specialization, so you can concentrate on game design, game art, animation, or a similar aspect of the industry. The Bachelor program is fully transferable to a master's program within the school.

      Degrees Offered:

      • Game Design and Development BS
    • University of Southern California
      Los Angeles, California

      One of the best schools for video game design, USC has many professional game designers affiliated with their program to give each student mentoring as they learn all aspects of game design. Both programs integrate smoothly into graduate programs at the same school.

      Degrees Offered:

      • BS in Computer Science – Games
      • BA in Interactive Entertainment
    • Drexel University Westphal College of Media Arts & Design
      Philadelphia, PA

      One of the top technology schools in the country, Drexel combines their computer science and digital media departments to create a comprehensive program for game design. This program is fully transferable to the graduate degree program at the same school.

      Degrees Offered:

      • Bachelor of Game Design and Production
      • Bachelor of Computer Science with a concentration in Game Programming and Development
    • New York University Tisch School of the Arts
      New York, NY

      NYU Tisch School of the Arts has a premiere game design program that fully integrates into their Master of Fine Arts in Game Design program. Students also have access to the Media and Games Network at the NYU Brooklyn campus

      Degrees Offered:

      • Bachelors of Fine Arts in Game Design
    • Massachusetts Institute of Technology MIT Game Lab
      Cambridge, MA

      MIT allows students to make their own curriculum in game design, utilizing the MIT Game Lab with state-of-the-art technology and the best instructors in the country.

      Degrees Offered:

      • Bachelor of Science in Game Design

    Traditional Schools Offering a B.S. in Video Game Design


    • DigiPen Institute of Technology
      Redmond, Washington

      DigiPen Institute of Technology is affiliated with Nintendo to give students the latest developments in the industry as they learn the art of game design. All programs are fully transferable to the graduate degree programs at the same school.

      Degrees Offered:

      • Bachelor of Science
      • Bachelor of Arts
      • Bachelor of Fine Arts
    • Full Sail University
      Winter Park, Florida

      High level design and production classes that cover all the key concepts of the field as well as developing a portfolio to showcase your creativity.

      Degrees Offered:

      • Bachelor of Science in Game Design
    • Lindenwood University
      St. Charles, Missouri

      Courses cover key concepts of the field of game design as well as game economics, aesthetics, and usability. Portfolio and project development courses are included for a comprehensive curriculum.

      Degrees Offered:

      • Bachelor of Arts in Game Design
    • Southern New Hampshire University
      Hooksett, New Hampshire

      A balanced curriculum that teaches skills and knowledge, SNHU combines computer science with animation, storytelling, and art aspects for a complete game design program.

      Degrees Offered:

      • Bachelor of Arts in Game Art and Development
    • Liberty University
      Lynchburg, Virginia

      Liberty offers one of the best game design programs in the country. You'll learn the technical skills as well as the artistic elements required to enter the field of game design with a well-rounded education.

      Degrees Offered:

      • Bachelor of Science in Information Technology degree program with a Game Design specialization
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